The Song of the Kingfisher by Eileen Duggan
Why do you sit, so dreamily, dreamily,
Kingfisher over the stream,
Silent Your beak, and silent the water,
What is your dream?
A falling, a flash of blue and silver,
Child, he is deep in the stream,
Prey in his beak and fear in the water
That was his dream!
You can often see a kōtare hunched on power-lines or a high branch over water mudflats or waterways. In a flash of colour it darts or dives for food. A medium sized bird, his shape, his long strong bill and his bright colours make him easy to identify.
Our only native kingfisher, the kōtare eat lots more than just fish. They have very good eyesight and happily include mice, small birds such as tauhou, beetles, lizards and skinks in their diet. This variety means they are not endangered.
Kōtare use their bills to carve out a nest hole in clay banks or tree trunks. They fly at the bank aiming their bills like a dagger. When they have made enough space to get a toe hold they perch on the lip and continue excavating. A nest cavity may be reused for many years.
The kōtare’s closest relative in New Zealand is the kookaburra, which was introduced here in the 1860’s and is now only found in an area south of Whangarei to the top of the Waitakere Ranges.
It is also known as the ‘Sacred Kingfisher’ because Polynesian peoples believed this bird had power over waves and was therefore holy. Check out the NZ Geographic article if you have access to their site.
- DOC kōtare page
- Radio NZ Bird watching – Kingfisher
- NZ Herald report. A rare white kingfisher was rescued in Whangarei in March 2015.
- Wildscreen Arkive